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Euro 2012 QF 4: England vs Italy pre-match predictions

Pirlo vs Gerrard.  Whoever plays better comes away with the win.

Why England will win

  1. If Roy Hodgson plays Carroll with Rooney, Italy will have a tough time keeping him from scoring.  Chiellini is out and so they might have to go back to a back three.  Do you really think Barzagli or De Rossi can match up with Carroll in the center of the box?  If Carroll gets service from Milner, Gerrard, Walcott or Ashley Young (if he’s healthy enough to play), it will be a long day for Italy.
  2. It just feels like this is England’s time.  They have played defensive against France, offensive against Sweden and lucky against Ukraine.  Rooney’s back and he scored even though he didn’t have a particularly good game.  Welbeck and Walcott had wonder goals.  They have speed on the wings.  The loss of Cahill, Barry and Lampard hasn’t hurt them yet.  Low expectations.  All of this points to England getting the breaks it needs.
  3. With Lampard out, there is no question how Gerrard needs to play.  And how he’s playing.  His crossing, attitude and effort have been perfect.  All he needs is to score on a free kick or penalty and his confidence will be sky high.  He will impose himself physically on Italy’s midfield and that’s why England will win.
  4. Hodgson’s knows how to prepare this team to play against an Italian team.  He coached Inter Milan in Serie A and knows how to insert a pragmatic game plan.

Why Italy will win

  1. Gianluigi Buffon.  World Cup 2006.  All Italy ever needed to do was get to penalties and they knew Buffon would win it for them.  It worked against Australia and then against France in the finals.  If this gets to penalty kicks – and that is a very real possibility here – are you going to bet on England (the team that never seems to win on penalty kicks backstopped by Hart, the youngest goalkeeper left standing in the tournament) or Buffon with Pirlo and De Rossi still there for the successful penalty kick takers in 2006?
  2. They know how to win these types of knockout games.  They’ve done it so many times before.
  3. Cassano and Di Natale have been lively.  But Mario Balotelli could be the game changer.  He obviously knows how to go against Lescott and Hart from practicing with them daily at Manchester City.  This could be his shining moment for Italy.  He is one of the most talented players there is and the game seems effortless to him.
  4. The pressure is going to start to build for England and now they are going to have to take the game to the other team, something they haven’t had to do this this tournament.  It’s more like the usual England, but not the role England has had to play at Euro 2012.

Pre-game prediction: England 2 Italy 1

It’s going to be hard to score two goals against Buffon.  So the 2 for England may be in the form of the “goal” you get when you win on penalties.  I would bet on Carroll, Terry or Lescott to score aerially against Italy off a dead ball.  Marchisio will finally come good and score on Sunday.  I know I said Buffon is tough to beat in penalty kicks, but Spain did it and so can England.  It’s time.

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Euro 2012 Matches 23 and 24: Sweden vs France, England vs Ukraine pre-game predictions

When favorites win, predictions usually seem to be on.  That’s what has happened the last two days.  Will tomorrow be any different?

Sweden is supposedly going to be playing a lot of second string players now that they have been eliminated from the tournament.  If Ibrahimovic doesn’t play, it will obviously be a big boost for France.  Sometimes, when reserve players play – and these aren’t scrubs but full internationals – and they aren’t under any pressure to get a result, the underdog usually does well.  However, with France knowing that a loss could eliminate them from the tournament if the other game ends in a draw, they will go all out to win.   Add to that the benefit of not having to play Spain in the next round if France wins this match by enough of a margin – though it’s not entirely clear whether you would want to play Italy or Spain in a knockout match at this stage – and that’s enough for me to predict a France win.  Stone cold lock.

Pre-game prediction: France 2 Sweden 0

Benzema and Ribery to score for France.

The England game could go either way.  What does Roy do now?  Draw and England are through.  But, you are playing the host country who have to win to go through with Shevchenko possibly out… or possibly in for a glorious finish.  What if you sit back and give up a late goal – can you come back?  I believe he will choose the safe path.  Start Welbeck up front with Rooney in the slot.  Young on the left, Gerrard on the right and Milner and Parker at holding midfield.  I wouldn’t start Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott initially.  They are to come on for Young and Milner depending on what the score is in the second half.  The interesting thing will be to see how Rooney and Gerrard play.  My feeling is you should let Rooney have a free role in the slot and have Gerrard drop more centrally between Parker and Milner.  It would be a modified Christmas tree that let’s Roy see if the Manchester United trio can do the business at the goal end of the tree.

Pre-game prediction: England 1 Ukraine 1

England could easily score three again, but I think it will be Gerrard for England and Yarmolenko for Ukraine.

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Euro 2012 Match 16: England vs Sweden pre-game predictions

Wazza’s hair transplant looks very awkward now that he has buzzed the sides.  That’s all I need to say about the lead-in to the game.  That and the fact that Ibra looks like I’d imagine Atilla would look like if he was a Samurai.

Why England will win

  1. Sweden lacks the pace, especially on defense, to keep up with the England counter attack.  Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Welbeck will be too quick for the Swedes, especially Melberg and Granqvist.
  2. As result of the reserve goalie’s butt on YouTube, Ibrahimovic’s blasting of his teammates and the starting lineup, and the giving up of a lead to two goals from one of the oldest players to ever score two goals in a major international tournament, Sweden does not have the best mindset going into this game.
  3. Terry and Lescott can frustrate Ibrahimovic up front.  Ibra typically does not like playing against big defenders on EPL teams and the England lineup with its defensive setup should be even more difficult for the big Swede.  Elmander could help him if he is inserted in the starting lineup, but I just don’t see him making much difference.  England is well aware of him from his time at Bolton.
  4. Hodgson’s tactics are perfect against an aggressive Sweden who has to win this match if they are to hold out hope of qualifying for the next stage.

Why Sweden will win

  1. Scott Parker may not be able to play, or if he does, his Achilles problem will hinder his effort.  Gerrard didn’t have a great game.  Is there anyone left in England’s midfield who can adequately clog up the middle – and please don’t say Jordan Henderson can do that job?
  2. England didn’t really generate any meaningful chances against France apart from the open net miss by Milner and the goal Lescott scored.  They will have to do better against Sweden if they hope to take anything away from this game.  Sweden will score against England and they are big enough to withstand dead ball situations when England will look to have Terry and Lescott try to nick one.
  3. Ibrahimovic will back up his anger and bluster and supreme self confidence now that he has put his team and managers on blast.  There will be no “cowards” or lack of effort from Sweden.

Pre-game prediction: England 1 Sweden 1

England will accept getting a point and leaving it up to Rooney in the last game to take them to the next round with a win over Ukraine.  That said, a bonus for winning the group is not having to probably play Spain in the next round.  Much easier to deal with Italy or Croatia.  Anyway, we get ahead of ourselves.  Welbeck or Gerrard (penalty) to score for England and Sebastian Larsson to score for Sweden on a free kick.

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Euro 2012 Match 7: England vs France pre-game predictions

No Lampard, no Beckham and no Zidane.  Will this matchup live up to the one in Euro 2004 when Lampard scored first, Becks missed a penalty that would have put the match beyond doubt and then England were defeated courtesy of a late double by Zidane?  I doubt it.  France comes into the tournament on a long unbeaten streak, but they haven’t hit the heights in the lead in to Euro 2012 and England seems incapable of scoring more than one goal in any match with the lineup and tactics Hodgson is employing.

Why England will win

  1. Hodgson has instilled his traditional game plan of being solid defensively with two banks of four and speed utilized to break on the counter and grab a goal against the run of play.  It’s pragmatic and he certainly has the speed in the lineup.
  2. England’s injuries, new coach and absence of talismanic Rooney has reduced expectations and the accompanying pressure that has seemed to paralyze past England squads.  Not much is expected of this England squad and that could be the key to unlocking the potential of the squad – with a lot of luck.
  3. England finally has a top goalkeeper in Joe Hart.  It’s been ten years since David Seaman played in goal (and if you don’t consider him a top keeper, you have to go back to 1983 for Ray Clemence).  Since then the “Golden Generation” has had to play with the likes of Scott Carson, Rob Green, Ben Foster, Chris Kirkland, Paul Robinson, David James and Richard Wright in goal.
  4. They have game changers in the speedy Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.  If Welbeck is fit, his partnership with Young will be dangerous.
  5. Group stage games aren’t decided on penalties.

Why France will win

  1. England’s injuries mean that there is no real continuity in defense.  It is tough to play a coordinated defensive strategy that Hodgson’s system requires when you haven’t had enough time to familiarize yourself with it given Roy’s recent hiring and you have had to change the central defenders following Rio’s withdrawal and Cahill’s injury.
  2. Rooney is not playing, Welbeck is just returning from an ankle injury and Defoe has just suffered a personal tragedy.  England has no depth to spare at the moment.
  3. France has game changers across the park in Ribery, Benzema, Nasri, Ben Arfa and Giroud.
  4. Blanc is a great coach and has the team mindful of their duty to perform at a higher level after their disastrous outing at the World Cup.  They are solid defensively, have a long unbeaten streak and the only question mark is the potential absence of Yann M’Vila.

Pre-match prediction: France 1 England 1

I wonder if England can score in this match.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the only way they get one is on a dead ball.  Ashely Young delivers great corners and free kicks.  Terry or Lescott to score for England and Benzema to get one for France.  A draw would be a great result for England who can get through as long as they don’t lose this match.

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Predictions before the Final group games

Group A: Mexico and Uruguay will go through.  I believe Mexico will beat Uruguay for top spot, thus avoiding Argentina

Group B: Argentina and S. Korea go through.  Nigeria might beat S. Korea, but I’m thinking goalless or 1-1 draw.  Nigeria is currently -2 in goal difference while S. Korea is -1, so if Nigeria beat S. Korea, they are through.

Group C: England and the US will go through.  England will beat Slovenia and Rooney will score – guarantee it.  The US will fumble around but beat Algeria to go through.

Group D: Ghana and Serbia.  I’m picking an upset.  I don’t believe Germany will be able to beat Ghana while Serbia will beat Australia.

Group E: Netherlands and Japan.  I think the Danes are too loose in defense and Japan is going to score on the break.  They were tough against the Dutch and I think Denmark will struggle to break them down.

Group F: Paraguay and Italy.  Crazy as it seems, the Italians will beat or draw with Slovakia to go through.

Group G: Brazil and Portugal.  7-0 took care of that.

Group H: Spain and Chile.  This one’s the craziest.  I just can’t bring myself to think Spain won’t make it through – especially with Chile’s suspensions.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chile draws and Switzerland goes through at Spain’s expense.  It would be an injustice if Chile didn’t make it.

Stone cold locks in this round: England over Slovenia, Serbia over Australia.

Still sticking with my pre tourney prediction – Brazil wins the World Cup if they win their group and the Dutch win if Brazil doesn’t.

Young players I really like in this tourney so far include: Ozil, Gio Dos Santos, Weiss (Slovenia), Elia, Gervinho, Navas and Subotic.  Kjaer hasn’t been bad either – just has no experienced partner in central defense to bail him out on a couple of highly visible errors.

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Day 2 Predictions: S. Korea vs Greece, Argentina v Nigeria, USA v England

Argentina and Nigeria will come out of Group B.

England and USA will come out of Group C.

But that’s in another week.

Tomorrow, Greece is going to tie S. Korea up defensively, but a moment of magic will have S. Korea score before the Greeks tie it up late.  Greece 1 S. Korea 1.

Argentina will beat Nigeria.  I believe it will be the highest scoring game of the tournament to date – Argentina 3 Nigeria 1.

England v USA.  Can’t really call it because the US is so good at the counter attack.  However, England has the team speed to negate that and a coach who knows what he’s up against.  Howard will have a good game as will Dempsey.  Unfortunately Demerit and Onyewu/Clarence Goodson won’t.  Even though England has been off form, I predict England 2 USA 0.  Rooney and either Terry or Lampard will score for England.

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World Cup 2010: Pre-Cup prediction on who will win

No time to really sort this out.  There are less than 8 hours to go to kickoff.  And the crystal ball is looking murky.  So, lets do the whys and why nots for the favorites IMO.  I will update this after the first round, but let me not shy away from it right now.

Brazil:  They win because they are solid in the defensive half of the field and have depth.  Julio Cesar, 2 great right backs (they should play Dani Alves at left back just to get him on the field as he will be behind Maicon at right back),  Lucio, Juan and Luisao to play the middle, Melo at holding and Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano up front.  Also, they are the only ones who have won outside of their continent (apart from Argentina in Mexico which sort of doesn’t count as a really different continent) – in fact, they have won in North America (1994), Europe (1958) and Asia (2002).  Seems to make sense that they should win in Africa.  They won’t win because there is magic missing up front.  Efficiency is great, but you need some magic.  Kaka has not been fit all season.  Hard to get there at the World Cup.  Plus, its a hard road through Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea to start the tournament.  They should win the group but that’s a work out unlike for Spain and England.

Spain:  They win because they have the most talented passers and total football team.  Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Xabi – what a foursome of passers in midfield.  Then you have Silva, Pedro and Jesus Navas (the biggest key for Spain after Torres IMO because the Achilles heel for Spain is a lack of real speed) on the wings (though Iniesta could play down the left as well).  Finally, Iker in goal and Torres and Villa up front.  That’s a squad.  Why they don’t win – I don’t think their defense is good enough.  I know I identified it as an issue in the Euros and they made me eat my words (though I did pick them to win pre tournament), but I just don’t get comfort in Capdevilla at left back and Ramos goes AWOL every so often at right back.  Also, Cesc, Iniesta and Torres are coming off injuries that caused them to miss the end of the season and Xavi is carrying a calf injury according to Pep Guardiola.  Also, the USA showed how you beat Spain.  Send them to the wings and overpower the strikers when they are forced to cross the ball – press Xavi at the same time.  Navas’ speed on the wing helps and Torres seems to be coming along.  They also have a relatively easy group to work Cesc, Torres and Iniesta back into playing shape before the knockout round.  However, I am still uneasy.  A big miss is going to be Marcos Senna at holding mid.  So, I want to say Spain but I just hesitate.

Argentina:  They win because they probably have one of the best forward pools in the history of the World Cup.  Messi and Higuain led La Liga in scoring, Tevez was near the top in the EPL as was Milito.  And then there is Aguero and Di Maria.  Did I mention Messi?!  Decent first round group to warm up with.  Mascherano at holding is solid.  And I’ve always liked Veron’s touch though he is a bit slow.  Wish Diego had brought Zanetti and Cambiasso.  That’s a big mistake.  They don’t win because their defense is too slow and old.  Heinze, DiMichelis and Samuel are just not up to snuff.  And Brazil and Inter showed you how to stop Messi.  And then you have the craziness of Maradona.

Holland: The win because Robben and Sneijder are two of the five most in form players in the world (I’d put Messi, Ronaldo and Milito in that bracket as well) at the end of the club season.  Then there’s Robin van Persie who is fresh after missing most of the season.  Rafael vdv is in decent form as well.  Kuyt provides work rate and balance up front.  They don’t win because their defense and keeping is not up to snuff.  And they tend to run out of steam as tournaments progress.

England: They win because they are the second best team from top to bottom in terms of depth (after Brazil).  They have Rooney and great veterans in the spine of the team – James, Terry (too bad Rio’s out, but King and Upson are good), Gerrard, Lampard.  They have speed on the wings (Fabio should have included Walcott instead of SWP).  Great coach.  They haven’t lost a World Cup game in a while if you exclude penalty kick knockouts.  They don’t win because too much depends on Rooney, Glen Johnson is a terrible defensive right back and the holding midfielder position isn’t settled.  Also, the weight of expectations will become very heavy the further we get in the tournament.

These are the only real favorites in my opinion.  A dark horse is Portugal, but with Nani out, their chances dropped significantly.  Never count out Germany (but Ballack is a big miss and they seem a big young) or Italy (this is one of the worst teams they have fielded though) or one of the African countries.  I would have put Ivory Coast as the top African team, but even if Drogba plays (as it seems to indicate in the latest news), its hard to have a brand new coach and expect to win the World Cup.

Two big factors and then I’ll make my pre Cup prediction.

The ball: with the movement in the ball, free kicks and corners are going to be very important.  That makes Ronaldo, Dani Alves, Sneijder, Lampard and Xavi very dangerous.  It could be the difference between winning and losing the Cup.

History: No European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe.  Argentina and Brazil have won outside of their  continent.  Yes, it is winter in South Africa so the heat is not going to be as big a factor as it has been for tournaments outside of Europe in the past.

My pick: Brazil if they win their group.  Holland if Brazil doesn’t win their group.

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